S-570/A-2887, sponsored by Senators Baer and Rice and Assemblymen Stack and McKeon, passed the Assembly and Senate on 1/9/06 by nearly unanimous votes, and was signed by Governor Codey on 1/12/06. The bill makes illegal lockouts a criminal offense (disorderly persons offense).
A lockout is legal only if it is done by an officer of the court executing a Warrant for Possession after a court judgement for eviction. The reason the criminal penalties are so important is that it puts the police on the side of the illegally locked out tenant. Prior to the bill's passage, a typical police officer called to the scene would keep the peace, and do nothing else. The tenant remained locked out, even though it violated "civil" law. The tenant would have to file a lawsuit to get back in -- something nearly impossible for most tenants in this situation.
Now, the police will help the tenant. If the landlord cannot produce a Statement of Execution of Warrant for Possession, signed by the court officer who executed the warrant, then the police officer will charge the landlord with a criminal violation unless he immediately gives the tenant access to the apartment. The police officer will prevent an uncooperative landlord from interfering with the tenant getting back into the apartment. All police officers will be educated about their responsibilities under this new law.
Here are some laws that protect tenants.
These laws were won by the work of
New Jersey Tenants Organization.
Phone: 201-342-3775 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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1. Eliminates the landlord administrative fee.
2. Requires landlords to provide an annual notice of the amount of the deposit, the NJ Bank it is in, the type of account it is in, and the current interest rate on that type of account.
3. Expands enforcement by allowing the tenant to take back the security deposit plus 7% interest (apply it to the rent) if the landlord does not provide the information listed in #2 above regarding the security deposit.
4. Where a building has been sold, the new landlord must get the deposit from the old landlord, invest it properly, make all required interest payments, give all required notices and return it on time when the tenant moves.
5. Limit the amount the security deposit can increase in any one year to 10% (but no more than the current maximum of 1 1/2 months rent.)
6. Increase the Small Claims Court limit to $5,000 for Security Deposit cases only, so that tenants can really sue for twice the security deposit if the landlord doesn't return the deposit on time.
7. Clarifies the law to prohibit deductions from the security deposit while the tenant still lives there.
The bill (A-710/S-631) was signed into law by former Gov. McGreevey, sponsored by Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg of Bergen County and Senator Gary Furnar who represents portions of Bergen, Essex, and Passaic Counties.
The new law restates the 20 year old prohibition against discrimination and empowers Housing Authorities throughout NJ to bring suit on behalf of tenants who are discriminated against in defiance of the law. Fines for violations are not $10,000 to $50,000. The NJ Division of Civil Rights enforces the Law Against Discrimination and sets up the procedure for tenants who have suffered discrimination because of their source of income (Section 8) at the hands of current landlords, prospective landlords or real estate agents. Discrimination against tenants with children also carries similar penalties. Contact the Division of Civil Rights, the Attorney General and the Housing Authorities if you feel you have been discriminated against on this basis.